Cities as Interbeings: A Vision for Regenerative Urban Ecosystems

Ernesto van Peborgh
4 min readFeb 15, 2024

In the heart of our collective living spaces — our cities — lies a paradox that beckons us to delve into the very essence of existence. Celebrated as the pinnacle of civilization’s progress, these sprawling networks of human activity stand upon a foundation fundamentally disconnected from Earth’s living web. This disconnection from the natural rhythms that sustain life urges us to reconsider the meaning of urban inhabitance.

Consider the concept of Blue Zones — not merely as distant anomalies but as beacons illuminating a profound truth about human well-being and longevity. Nestled in various corners of our planet, these sanctuaries whisper the forgotten language of living in harmony with nature and community. The stark contrast between the vibrant health of Blue Zone inhabitants and the myriad health challenges faced by urban dwellers highlights the dissonance in our current urban narratives.

Urban environments, with their cacophony of noise, concrete, metal, and relentless pace, often stand as epicenters of pollution and resource depletion. The air we breathe, the pace at which we live, and the shadow of stress over our days speak to a deeper malaise — a forgetting of our intrinsic connection to all life. The prevalence of heart disease, mental health struggles, and the loneliness haunting our high-rise apartments reflect not just individual afflictions but symptoms of collective amnesia.

Within the intricate mosaic of urban life, a striking statistic stands out: 70% of our carbon emissions originate from cities, which occupy merely 3% of Earth’s total footprint.

Yet, within this crisis lies a portal to transformation. The environmental footprint of our cities, highlighted by the extensive “food miles” of our consumption, calls for a reimagining of our urban ecosystems. What if our cities could embody the wisdom of the Blue Zones? What if, instead of extracting from Earth, we nurtured a symbiotic relationship with the living world?

Dror Benshetrit suggests that this insight highlights a critical necessity for a fundamental change in our approach to bioplanning, advocating for a transition from conventional, inflexible grid structures to more organic, adaptable cellular forms.

This fundamental change in the geometry of our urban environments promises not just ecological benefits but a deeper, more profound cultural shift. It’s about sculpting spaces that foster a stronger connection among us, spaces that are infused with empathy, care, and a renewed sense of equality. By embracing this cellular approach, we reimagine the built environment as a living, breathing entity, where each component is interlinked in a harmonious dance, mirroring the intricate interdependencies found in nature.

This vision for the future of cities isn’t a utopian fantasy but a practical invitation to embark on a new narrative — one where cities are vibrant interbeings, actively participating in the dance of life.

In this narrative, cities transform into places where clean air, abundant green spaces, and thriving communities reflect the natural world’s diversity and resilience.

Emerging as the new “commons,” bioplanned environments represent spaces where human settlements are not merely organized but are alive, resonating with Earth’s rhythms. Inspired by thinkers like Elinor Ostrom on governing the commons, we envision urban spaces that are sustainable and regenerative — where waste is a foreign concept, and every action nourishes all life.

The transformation of our cities into living ecosystems demands a shift in consciousness — a reawakening to our interdependence with all beings. It calls for a rediscovery of the sacredness in our relationships with each other and the Earth. In this new narrative, the health of our cities is deeply intertwined with the well-being of the soil, forests, oceans, and every creature that calls this planet home.

As we stand on the brink of possibility, let us choose to step into a story of regeneration and reconnection. Let our cities be the cradles of a new era, where every street, building, and heart beats in harmony with the living Earth. This path is not just about sustainable urban living; it’s about rediscovering our place in the web of life, embracing our roles as caretakers, lovers, and participants in the grand symphony of the universe.

In this transformative journey, regenerative designers bear the mantle of responsibility. Called to pioneer bioplanning, they craft blueprints for cities that breathe, thrive, and evolve in harmony with nature. This sacred duty involves creating regenerative, livable environments that serve both human inhabitants and the greater ecosystem. Through their creativity, insight, and dedication, regenerative designers have the power to transform our cities into beacons of healing and regeneration, heralding an era where every urban space celebrates the symbiotic potential of human and natural coexistence.

Envisioning new human settlements as places of purpose, personal growth, and community development embodies the essence of interbecoming. By reimagining our urban environments through this lens, cities transcend their traditional roles, becoming living, breathing entities where every element engages in meaningful dialogue. This culture fosters a symbiotic relationship where individual growth nourishes the community, and, in turn, the community supports each individual’s flourishing. Cities as interbeings thus become catalysts for collective evolution, guiding us toward a future where our settlements are not merely places we inhabit but sacred spaces that inspire growth, connection, and a deeper integration with the web of life. This vision invites us to actively participate in the story of interbecoming, where every action and interaction contributes to a more compassionate, interconnected, and regenerative world.

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Ernesto van Peborgh

Entrepreneur, writer, filmmaker, Harvard MBA. Builder of systemic interactive networks for knowledge management.